Situation of women, and state protection available for female victims of rape and violence (1995-July 2000) [TZA34593.E]

The information that follows adds to that provided in TZA34272.E of 8 May 2000 (Female genital mutilation in Tanzania), TZA28612.E of 20 February 1998 (Services available to female victims of spousal abuse) and TZA17622.E of 9 June 1994 (Situation of women), and Country Reports 1999, Section 5.

A 23-page report on the situation of women in Tanzania, dated 30 September 1996 and presented before the 19th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) between 22 June and 10 July 1998, can be found on the CEDAW Website (see references). The report provides only a few paragraphs on violence against women under Chapter III, Section B; these indicate that there has been increasing awareness of and media attention to the problem, and refer to studies that show the widespread incidence and variety of forms of abuse affecting women in the country. The same section reports that the situation had led to the enactment of a law in 1992 which mandated a minimum of 35 years of prison for "defilement of girls under 14 years of age"; however, the text states that "stringent punishment has not deterred the practice."

On the issue of female genital mutilation, which is also discussed in TZA34272.E, one report states that "the practice is on the increase in that country, despite government attempts to ban it" (BBC News 10 Nov. 1999). The report states that a human rights group in Tanzania "is now trying to promote a compromise experiment amongst the Maasai, where the circumcision ceremony is celebrated but the actual circumcision is not carried out" (ibid.).

Also referring to the Maasai, one report states that clashes between warriors of that ethnic group and of the Warangi resulted, as Warangi warriors sought to avenge "the beating of Warangi women by a group of young Maasai warriors" (Africa News 14 Nov. 1999). Police and officials reportedly rushed to the area "to quell a fresh outbreak of violence" (ibid.). The report contains no reference to legal or official action against those who reportedly beat the Warangi women.

A 31 December 1999 article published by Africa News reports that drug abuse and sexual offences "have been on the rise in the past three years despite a new legislation and stepped up efforts by law enforcement organs to contain the crimes." The article cites the Director of Criminal Investigations as stating that "4,270 women were reported raped in the country between 1996 and 1998," adding that "the majority of the 3,788 people who were convicted in connection with rape charges in the past three years in Tanzania were under drug influence" (ibid.). The Director is also cited as saying that "many other rape cases were likely not being reported to authorities as the victims avoid the stigma that goes with the crime (ibid.).

One report refers to a possible link between "paying a bride price" or dowry, and spousal abuse, stating that such payment may lead men to view spouses as "their personal property" and that assaults on wives reportedly "are more serious in areas where grooms are charged higher bride prices" (IPS 14 Jan. 1999). In reference to dowry and spousal abuse, an organization called Women in Law and Development in Africa reportedly "recorded close to 200 deaths due to assault in the country in the last six years," adding that "the actual number could be even higher because many cases go unreported" (ibid.). Another source, from the Media Women's Association, is cited as saying that "wife battering is a criminal offence but most of the women just keep quiet when beaten by their husbands," adding that "through a combination of ignorance and tradition, some women have been made to believe that their husbands do not love or care about them unless they are battered" (ibid.).

Other acts of violence against women reported in Tanzania includes the killing of numerous women, mostly elderly, under the alleged belief that they were witches. Many of the victims were accused of being witches because they had reddened eyes, a condition linked to their indoor use of wood stoves (Africa News 27 Mar. 2000; IPS 3 July 2000). One source reports that "investigators and sociologists say this is often used as an excuse by family members to get rid of women in order to seize their property" (Human Rights Without Frontiers 23 Nov. 1999).

The murders go largely unpunished: one article cites a regional police commander as saying that "it was hard to prosecute witchcraft murders because the killers are often hired from distant places, and local people are uncooperative in investigations" (IPS 3 July 2000), while another states that "the murderers normally go scot-free and are difficult to trace because members of their communities who share their superstitious beliefs refuse to unveil their identity" (Africa News 29 Nov. 1999). One report states that "efforts to curb the situation end in vain as officials say that witchcraft killings cases are very complicated and that it is very difficult to produce the evidence" (ibid. 27 Mar. 2000).

Most of these killings reportedly have taken place in western regions of Tanzania (Africa News 26 June 2000). Figures vary, with reports stating that "more than 500 elderly women suspected of being witches" were killed in Northwest Tanzania in 1999 (IPS 3 July 2000), that "at least 400 elderly 'witches' have been killed in Tanzania in the past three years" (Africa News 26 June 2000), and that 1,233 persons were "killed on witchcraft beliefs" nation-wide in the last four years, with more than 500 of them killed in western Tanzania (ibid. 27 Mar. 2000).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Africa News [Durham, NC]. 26 June 2000. John Ongeri. "Tanzania: 'Witches' Massacred For Having Red Eyes." (NEXIS)

_____. 27 March 2000. "Gender and Witchcraft Killings in Tanzania." (NEXIS)

_____. 31 December 1999. "Sexual Offenses, Drug Abuse Rises Alarmingly in Tanzania." (NEXIS)

_____. 29 November 1999. "Mobs Kill 34 Suspected Witches in Tanzania." (NEXIS)

_____. 14 November 1999. Morice Maunya. "Two Ethnic Groups Clash in Tanzania." (NEXIS)

BBC News: Africa [London]. 10 November 1999. "Handover of Circumcision Tools Praised." (NEXIS)

Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Eliminationf All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Second and Third Periodic Reports of States Parties: United Republic of Tanzania. (Nineteenth session). 30 September 1996. (CEDAW/C/TZA/2-3). New York: United Nations. [Accessed 7 June 2000]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 25 February 2000. "Tanzania." Washington, DC: U. S. Department of State. [Accessed 6 June 2000]

Human Rights Without Frontiers [Brussels]. 23 November 1999. "Tanzania: Suspected Witches Killed." (

Inter Press Service (IPS). 13 July 2000. Ananilea Nkya. "Rights3/4Tanzania: Witchcraft Murders Target Elderly Women." (NEXIS)

_____. 14 January 1999. Alfred Mbogora. "Tanzania: Women Activists Link Dowries to Wife Battering." (NEXIS)